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Poster: mwoodwar Date: Dec 4, 2002 10:21pm
Forum: bookmobile Subject: Re: Re: Any programmer/xml types up for a challenge?

Peter, thanks so much for the post. My lack of technical skills require not so much comments, as observations...so please bear with me.

I think that there are actually two equations to be considered here:

1) Already exisiting books in plain ascii format: In my opinion, what is needed here is a fairly unsophisticated solution. I for one am more concerned about 'orphan pages', and gross (rendering unreadable) issues than proper italics or quotation marks.

My intention (please remember this is just MHO) is to give these books away in places where ANY book is a bonus. Of course, I'd want them to be as good as is practical...but this is one of those areas where 80% now is probably preferable to 95% much later?

2)Future Books: Although this doesn't directly impact my Bookmobile plans, in the long run it is probably more important, and might require a more technical solution.

Since the hope is that many more books will be put online, it would be wonderful if there were a fairly simple markup that could be applied on the input side, that would allow for richer, more predictable results down the road.

Finally, I think that it was someone else in the thread who suggested using Tiff files. While I understand the convenience and fidelity advantages, it seems like an order of magnitude more complex and costly for a mobile "bookmobile" type application.

Again, thanks for the post Peter...and I hope others will chime in with their opinions.

Mark

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Poster: Peter Zelchenko Date: Dec 5, 2002 1:19am
Forum: bookmobile Subject: Re: Any programmer/xml types up for a challenge?

I think a simple, unified solution is in order, one which can handle the several formats. At this point, that is going to be either PDF or her more elemental sister, PostScript, generated by some (even very rudimentary) paginators.

Now, a couple of points. I've been doing books on demand for many years, having logged tens of thousands of hours in this kind of drudgery and other kinds of often tedious, usually repetitive, thankless and low-paid production. It's not rocket science, but to make good books in volume, quickly and efficiently, even on a modest level is a mildly complex matter. To make it an easy "on the go" solution (as is the goal of both your solution and mine), you can't simply have someone in the field open, say, a PG file in Word and print what paginates. That will result in frustration both for the producer and the reader.

This leads us to the question of "Just what are we doing here?" Not surprisingly, my aspirations also naturally led me to the romantic notion of putting my printer into a truck and being like a modern Jack Kerouac, a literary Johnny Appleseed, or a nomadic Gutenberg. If we can give kids free books, we're achieving a goal, but we then have to make sure they are reading those books - else the book is another mere commodity to chuckle at and then chuck into a pile. Do we need that mentality from this audience for this product?

This means the product needs to touch them, from the standpoints of their desires and expectations. Our books are in competition with NintendoTV, plastic Chinese injection-molded trinkets from McDonald's, and cold cereal packaging. Within the means we have available, they need to be packaged to compete, both in form and content. You can't do that without spending some time on the formal details.

Furthermore, what's better - a million books of dubious value to inner-city children (Augustus de Morgan's Calculus, anyone?), or ten books of confirmed value? This raises a small level of doubt about the very question of on-demand production in this arena. After all, for "a buck a book" and $100,000, with web offset printing you could produce 100,000 of a limited number of titles, but titles that you know the kids would read cover to cover. (Which basically is what the low-tech Bookmobiles have been doing for 90 years.)

That argument might rub you and me the wrong way about homogenization of product, but, as I said, it is we who are excited about the cottageization of creativity; the kids in Watts just don't care!

[Brewster called just as I was writing this, and we debated and came to compromises on some of these very points; however, my general position still stands.]

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Poster: mwoodwar Date: Dec 5, 2002 3:32am
Forum: bookmobile Subject: Re: Any programmer/xml types up for a challenge?

Well, I agree with much of what you say..especially the appropriateness of title selection.

Perhaps this could help define a starting point? Would it be possible to have a look at 10 or so potential titles that are already digital...and prepare those 10 for printing adequately?

While I understand the competition with Nintendo et al., let me briefly tell you how I became interested in all of this. I was helping out at a local church...reading stories. One 7 yr old girl (who stayed for the whole thing) said that she really loved a certain story that was read.

I asked her if she would like to have the book...and her jaw dropped. She was 7 years old, and had NEVER had a book of her own at home...NEVER. Then and there I decided to do something...and within a week, I heard about the Internet Bookmobile.

Doing an internet bookmobile may not produce widespread results...doing nothing guarantees no results.

Mark

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Poster: Peter Zelchenko Date: Dec 5, 2002 2:10pm
Forum: bookmobile Subject: Re: Any programmer/xml types up for a challenge?

All of this is good commentary, and I really like Mark's story about the girl. My sometime cynicism melts away under such power.

After speaking at length today with Brewster and later with Mike Hart, we have a couple of potential solutions in the works. There are some enormous kinks, but we may be able to attack this cheaply and without much manual effort. At least, that's the theory.

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Poster: mwoodwar Date: Dec 5, 2002 9:59pm
Forum: bookmobile Subject: Re: Any programmer/xml types up for a challenge?

Well, please post some details as soon as you can? Who knows, maybe there is someone waiting in the wings who might have a vital piece of the puzzle.

As far as the story goes, unfortunately here in Tennessee it repeats itself all too often. While there are some surefire low tech solutions (buying and giving away books) I feel that having them take part in the process of making the book could be very powerful, and perhaps plant a seed for the future.

Mark

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Poster: rem2ram Date: Dec 5, 2002 4:45am
Forum: bookmobile Subject: Re: Re: Any programmer/xml types up for a challenge?

I agree with Mark and Peter. If an arbitrary number of books (say 10 or 20) for each target group (pre-school, elementary, high school and seniors etc.) are formatted and ready for printing would be a great start. If a priority list of books that have been digitized is created, a “standard” format agreed upon, a way to “check out” documents so that people do not duplicate the formatting effort (maybe Xerox would donate their DocuShare product) and a short guide for formatting - books could be ready for Internet Bookmobiles all over the country. I bet if we post a request for help formatting the books on slashdot.org, geek.com and maybe even bookcrossing.com a lot of people would be willing to help.

Terry

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Poster: Jacques Richer Date: Dec 5, 2002 5:46am
Forum: bookmobile Subject: Re: Re: Any programmer/xml types up for a challenge?

While I hesitate to mention this, have any of you considered Latex? There is already an elementary converter for plain text (ascii), and a bit of formatting knowledge will get you nice looking PS, PDF, decent HTML, and wide support for a very large selection of printers.
In addition to this, all the software to do the basic work is free, and has been ported to *nix, MS Windows, and Mac. I recently hacked together some scripts, and while the output is not impressive, it is at least readable. I would be willing to email you some samples if you like.

Jacques Richer
Richer Consulting
bithead256@yahoo.com (Personal email)

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